Emily Writes tells heartfelt parenting tales from the trenches

by Catherine Woulfe / 04 September, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Emily Writes Is It Bedtime Yet?

Emily Writes. Photo/Christopher Tse

Parents pour out their often-funny, invariably heartfelt stories in Is It Bedtime Yet? 

“Please reach for them,” urges Wellington mum Emily Writes in her typically comic, compassionate introduction. Reach for your people, she means, when parenting is lonely and disorientating. Build your village. Share your stories.

Behold, a collection of stories by the village Emily has built. Most of these 50 essays first appeared in the parenting section she edits for a website. “I’m not really a writer,” contributors often apologise, before sending in a wonderful piece of writing.

The bio of Eliza Prestidge Oldfield, for example, says she is a mother of two and a lawyer. But she’s taken the time one of her children threw glitter all over the house and turned it into a funny, clip-cloppy, musical story with the rhythms and rhymes of a kids’ book. The mum “tried her best but needed a rest”; every couple of paragraphs we’re warned, “But things were about to get much worse.”

Not every piece is so writerly but they all tell a truth, and that’s the point here: voices. Children are often directly quoted, too, particularly in Emily’s pieces, which makes them important, and gives the writing shrieks, whispers and gasps. “Will the knife be a kids’ knife?” asks one little girl of her surgeon. “And will it cut softly?”

In this book, parents bicker and snap and are forgiven. Gender politics are addressed head-on. Dads are here with their perspectives on sharing the load and staying at home.

Lots of it is very funny. Emily’s kids learn to fart in cups and get Mum to “drink” it. A lesbian couple drastically overestimate the size of the syringe they’ll need for their donor’s semen. There’s an essay entirely devoted to how to do a poo after giving birth.

There’s also a story about traumatic birth that I can’t quite bring myself to read. Art writer Thomasin Sleigh contributes a deft, moving piece about the ways in which babies mess with time. And Nichole Brown’s essay about white-washing her Māori daughter’s world throbs with sorrow and regret and promises.

“I am so sorry for calling them ‘koomrah’ and ‘paawiz’ when they are kūmara and pāua. I should have taken you to the secret little spring below Grandma’s whare to pick watercress for our kai, instead of buying it in little zip-locked plastic bags …”

The book’s essence? It’s there on the dedications page. “For Abel,” it reads, “Adeline, Alice, Arthur, Augustine, Aurelia, Ben, Bobbie, Charlie …”

For the kids.

IS IT BEDTIME YET?, by Emily Writes and friends (Random House NZ, $35)

This article was first published in the August 25, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Why ethical eating often stops at the restaurant door
101520 2019-01-22 00:00:00Z Food

Why ethical eating often stops at the restaurant d…

by Rachel A. Ankeny and Heather Bray

Can a chef promote foraging, seasonality and plant-based eating, yet also serve meat and other animal-derived protein products on the same menu?

Read more
Why the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery is bound to attract the curious
101463 2019-01-22 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Why the Dunedin Museum of Natural Mystery is bound…

by Ellen Rykers

Artist Bruce Mahalski's museum is the result of a lifetime of collecting.

Read more
Gillette ad isn't anti-men, it's anti-toxic masculinity – it should be welcomed
101480 2019-01-21 16:59:29Z Social issues

Gillette ad isn't anti-men, it's anti-toxic mascul…

by Nicola Bishop

The backlash against the Gillette ad shows how painfully little distance we as a society have covered since the #MeToo movement.

Read more
Cost of Auckland public transport to go up
101459 2019-01-21 14:08:56Z Auckland Issues

Cost of Auckland public transport to go up

by RNZ

Auckland's public transport users will soon see fares increase by up to 50 cents.

Read more
The future of gangs in New Zealand
101322 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Social issues

The future of gangs in New Zealand

by Philippa Tolley

Best of RNZ: Gangs have been a feature of New Zealand society for more than half a century. Philippa Tolley takes a look at what future lies ahead.

Read more
How some Germans are countering the extremist views of the far-right
101320 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z World

How some Germans are countering the extremist view…

by Cathrin Schaer

Germans face a familiar dilemma in finding ways to oppose the views of the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Read more
White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?
101439 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Auckland Issues

White Noise: Who is shaping Auckland's future?

by Kate Newton

Some Aucklanders have more say in their city's future than others.

Read more
Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Greeks in Heroes
101242 2019-01-21 00:00:00Z Books

Stephen Fry revisits the world of the Ancient Gree…

by Lauren Buckeridge

In his delightful way, Stephen Fry dips back into the ancient world with more stories of tests, quests and feats of old.

Read more